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As challenged by NoSpin! : Share your short stories about your memorable/amazing/weird experiences in Italy...

SMJ

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
Lots of really great photos of Italy here, so NoSpin suggested starting a thread for our anecdotes and stories about interesting/weird/amazing/Wow moments you have had while visiting Italy.
Keep it fairly short......just share!
Add a photo if there is one to complement the story.
Eagerly awaiting your stories while I think of a few of my own...…..
 

Alpinista

100+ Posts
On my first trip to Italy with my (future) wife, we were getting on the shuttle bus from plane to terminal at the Milan airport and I saw a fat street person in a ragged great-coat and with a huge, filthy, multi-colored silk scarf wrapped around his shoulder which he occasionally used to blow his nose. Upon arrival at the terminal, I then noticed that a video crew was following him to his car and that a large, admiring crowd was pointing and waving to him. My wife informed me that he was the second biggest personality in Italy (after the Pope) – Luciano Pavarotti (stock photo, btw).

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SMJ

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
My friend and I were in Monterosso a few years ago, and she tripped over a paving stone and went rolling down the hill clutching her camera.
Two young "hunks" came running over immediately and hauled her upright by the armpits, a lady rushed out of a little shop with a chair and they plunked her in it, and another man rushed over with wet cloths and sponged off the dirt and dust from her arms and legs...all of them talking at once.
I just stood and watched with my mouth hanging open!
The kindness of strangers in Italy is just wonderful. :)

Her camera survived, but she had a few bruises.
 

NoSpin

100+ Posts
In August of 2019 we stayed at a villa in Impruneta which is about 12 miles south of Florence. The villa was reserved for 2 weeks by friends of ours. August wasn’t my preferred time of year to be in Italy, but I’m certainly not going to turn down a chance to stay in a villa. There were 5 couples and 3 teenagers comprising our group.

In preparing for the trip I pleasantly realized we would be there when the Palio was being run. Siena was about an hour away and we went there twice before the Palio and then one day after. I’m sure most of you know about this race. Each neighborhood (contrada) has their own colors and they wear them on a scarf. On our first visit I bought a scarf that had all 17 contrade on it. My wife bought one of a particular contrada, but didn’t wear it and no one else in our group bought one.

The day before the Palio we were in Siena and on our way to a restaurant. I was wearing my scarf. Suddenly a group of young kids all ran up to me. Apparently my scarf was showing the symbol of their rival contrada. They were saying “No, No” and signaling with thumbs down. I knew nothing, but of course I immediately agreed with them and gave a thumbs down. Then I asked “quale” which one was their neighborhood (I had no idea where I was).

They pointed out their contrada on my scarf and we all did a thumbs up. My wife said I have to get this picture. Here is the picture and I have to say of the thousands of photos I have of Italy, it is my most memorable one.

Siena Kids 2019.jpg
 

joe

500+ Posts
This one's about small surprises...

There have been discussions here - and also on the old ST site - about the differences between devoting a lot of time to research or planning before a trip, and, as opposed to this, traveling more spontaneously, or "on a whim". I am in the "meticulous planners" club.

On our first trip to Italy, in 2008, I had booked accommodations for 2 nights at an agriturismo in the Apennines about 50 kms. north of Genoa. We were traveling from Piemonte to Liguria, and I didn't want to make what to me seemed like a longish direct drive. I thought that a stop along the way would ease the distance, and we'd also experience another locality.

The description of the agriturismo led me to believe that we'd be guests at an active farm in the countryside, with a variety of home-made products. When we arrived at the address we found ourselves in a village, with the owner directing us to an apartment there. This was certainly not what we expected. Also, this was the end of October, it was very cold and foggy in the mountains, the apt. was not heated well and it was poorly supplied. The description was either misleading, or I had not fully paid attention.

My wife was pretty upset, and I realized that I'd have to change plans. I opened the map and started searching for a Plan B. It was then that another surprise appeared : the next day was the 30th of October, but our next accommodation, in Camogli, was scheduled for the 1st of November. In my "meticulous" planning I had forgotten that October has 31 days! "Thirty days hath September, April, June, and October", right? ;) I hadn't planned for that day at all, not even accommodations....

After I overcame my initial panic - this was my first trip to a foreign country, I had little experience with online bookings, and I felt that everything had suddenly become a mess - I realized that we had just gained a day to our trip, and that basically we can go for two days somewhere that we hadn't planned for. Actually, this was a gift.

The next morning I called the owner, explaining the situation, and asked him if it would be OK if I bought some of his products and canceled the 2nd night stay. He was pretty indifferent, it was the off-season and we were probably his only guests. He agreed.

And that's how we got to know Genoa, a gem of a city in our opinion, and to spend two days there. Luck also appeared with regards the weather - the fog and cold dissipated, blue skies and sun greeted us there, which made our strolls along the sea promenade and in the city's beautiful alleys and streets even more enjoyable. The big indoor market - the Mercato Orientale - was also much appreciated, as was the lovely harmony between old and new, and the great food.

We liked the city so much that we returned again in 2016.

I even got to know a great song about Genoa, by the much-beloved Italian songwriter Paolo Conte :


View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cPKXFc_AO7U


The translation is worth a read, if only for the famous Italian provinciality reflected in the song :

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italian excursion

100+ Posts
Of all the meals I've eaten in Italy over the last 25 years, this one was not only one of the best but also one of the strangest venues. Partnering with Erica of Sapori-e-Saperi on a 2019 tour in very out of the way places in the Casentino area of Tuscany, she took us to a small town called Bibbiena. The town itself was not so memorable but the tiny restaurant was located in a tent in the parking lot of an Esso gas station! And it just happened to be a very stormy, rainy day. When we arrived the 3 brothers who cooked, served and waited on us were very excited to see our group of 9 women and had set our table with elegance and grace. They welcomed us with enormous smiles, spoke little English, some not at all. As the storm raged around us, howling and dumping enormous amounts of rain on the tent, which had clear plastic walls, we had the most scrumptious courses, 7 in all! Of course, customers were coming and going at the gas pumps. Everything was fresh, the wines superb and paired perfectly. The restroom was outside connected to the gas station's building but steps away from the tent, so quite convenient. Just imagine a typical Esso station where you have stopped for gas on your way to someplace in Italy. We had a most fabulous day and as we readied ourselves to leave our hosts launched into a ceremony of offering us each a bag of gifts to remember them by. An experience to remember!

Bibbiena #3.jpg


Bibbiena #2.jpg


Bibbiena #1.jpg
 
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Valerie

100+ Posts
On our first trip to Italy we went to Naples with my mom and stepfather. He insisted on driving instead of taking the train and got us hopelessly lost, in pouring rain, in a not-great part of the city. My first impression wasn't good. Finally we arrived at the Archeology Museum, and there were barriers up around parts of it for work (now I don't remember if it was work on the street or the building itself) and we were walking in circles under umbrellas to find an entrance. We wandered in a door, and stood amidst incredible statuary, but no lights were on, which we thought was weird, and nobody was about. Strange. We walked through and admired the sculptures and continued around a corner to another room. A guard came up and asked how we got in, saying the museum was closed that day! Ah! Lightbulb moment, no wonder it was deserted! But they let us see the rest of the sculptures before making us leave.
 

Steve R.

10+ Posts
Well, there was the time, in Umbria, where our GPS took us up a hill then told us to make a right turn, which would've put us right over the edge. But I guess everyone has those stories.

Then there was the surreal dinner at the now closed "Cucina del Garga" in Florence where we were one of 3 tables filled in the place. From across the room, we heard one of the men telling the other that he was the father of the chef's wife. Then the mother of the chef sat with them and the in laws started discussing how their "kids" met in Brooklyn, NY while the chef was working at a local restaurant and how he convinced her to come home to Florence with him to take over the family restaurant (where we were eating). Of course I yelled over at the father that we live in that Brooklyn area and we joined that conversation for awhile, then spoke with the chef about his life in NYC for the 5 years he was there.

Not finished.

That broke the ice in the place and we started to talk to the other occupied table (of 8) seated near us. They were getting a kick out of our encounter with the other table and spoke English with English accents (not Brooklynese). They explained that they were staying outside of Florence in a nearby town. I was eager to share our "inside knowledge" of that town with them, as the landlord of our apartment (we were there for a month or so) lived in that town and had had us over for dinner twice, driving us around. I told them that it was famous because Sting has his large property there and was in town. They said they knew that since they were all his staff (chef, chauffeur, security, tour manager, etc). And, no, they weren't gonna invite us over no matter how many drinks I bought them.
 

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